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How to Setup Python for Engineering (Short Version)

From slide rule to software, classic engineering tools (creative commons license)

From slide rule to software, classic engineering tools (creative commons license)

I’m going to share some websites and download links to help you get started setting up python to help you solve some engineering problems.  It may seem a little short, but I like simple and short.  I guess growing up in the early TV generation, my attention span is  short.  So, here we go:

Download Python Software and install:

Python(x,y) for Scientists (recommended for Windows/Linux users)

: This site has a full installer and will install everything you need, such as Scipy-Ipython-Matplotlib,  and many other additional items for advance work.  If you just want to go one place and get everything, this is it.  If you don’t want all of the extras yet, then you can just install the basics by using the links below and installing each one-by-one.  Be sure you follow the current download instructions at each website.

Basic Python (version 2.5.4)

: This is the basic python version.  I’m not using Python 3.0, since some of the packages haven’t caught up yet.  This will discuss Windows, if you have Linux, you should already have Python.  If not, then use your particular package installer to download the software.  This approach will work for the other packages (shown below) as well.  For example, in Ubuntu, just enter the name in your synaptic software installer, it will show up in the list and then just click and install.  All the ones in the list below are available in the various repositories.

Scipy for numerical work

: This is the numerical package that you will use for most of your numerical libraries.  If you need special one, a google search will almost always turn something up.  However, this package is very complete and almost always will do what you need.

Ipython to work with your programs and files:

This is the ‘interactive python shell’ that enables you to program and work with files, interactive programming and other cool things.  It is set up to run with Scipy and Matplotlib.

Scite editor for writing longer programs

: There are tons of editors, free and non-free, so you can pick the one you like.  Try this one initially until you get used to it.  It works great with Ipython and is fairly simple.  You can set it up to work directly from Ipython.  Ultimately, you may want a full Integrated Development Environment (IDE) like Eclipse, or CodeEditor, but for now Scite is lightweight and simple.

Matplotlib for 2D plotting and graphics:

This is the plotting package you want to use.  There are many out there, Gnuplot, MayaVi2 for 3D and many others, but this one works with Ipython and can do just about any plot you need for most applications.

Sympy for symbolic mathematics

: This package will allow you to symbolically manipulate expressions and solve analytically.  Pretty cool.

With all of these, you have the equivalent of MATLAB, Scilab or FreeMat ( an open-source equivalent to MATLAB).  However, Python is very extendable.  There are packages for just about everything, including image manipulation, network programming, game development, graphics, video, audio, optimization, financials, and so on.  All is open source and supported by an army of extremely clever and dedicated developers.  Not a bad place to be…

Python Tutorials:

Over 300 Python tutorials

: There are many different, excellent tutorials on many different aspects of Python programming here.  Just explore to your heart’s content.

ShowMeDo Learning Path Videos :

Highly recommended.  There are many video available for free and for a low fee, you get the entire site.  This are all well-made, short and very informative.

The basic Python documentation

: You’ll find a lot of good basic documentation, language reference, tutorial and lots more.

Also, if you search Google Code and Youtube, you’ll find a lot of videos on various topics of interest.  There you go, so go ahead, set up your Python, use the documentation on the websites for the latest details.  Open up the Ipython and enter 2+2 to see if it works.  Then, follow the instructions to set up your editor.  Spend some time reading the Ipython docs just to get used to it.  I’ll have a sample problem in the next post.

One Comment

  1. Steve says:

    Hi Fedab:

    Sorry for the delay. I had some school stuff that I had to do and my router crashed…and burned. For the Mac, try the following website: and try the Scipy superpack. Also, Enthought Python Distribution at has a Beta 2 for Mac. Try those and let me know, I’ll post the results. And, thank you for the great comment! I really appreciate it. I have some friends with Macs, I’ll talk with them and post on setting up a Mac for Python25, Scipy and Matplotlib.

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